Friday, September 30, 2016

September Reflections

Stand-Out Books Read in September 2016

1) Miracle Man. John Hendrix. 2016. Harry N. Abrams. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
2) Emily's Runaway Imagination. Beverly Cleary. 1961. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]
3) Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd. (Flavia de Luce #8) 2016. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
4) Applesauce Weather. Helen Frost. Illustrated by Amy June Bates. 2016. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]
5) Dog Loves Drawing. Louise Yates. 2012. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
6) Good Good Father. Chris Tomlin and Pat Barrett. 2016. Thomas Nelson. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

5 Places "Visited" in September 2016

1) Oregon
2) Kansas
3) England
4) Iowa
5) Galilee

Picture books:
  1. Good Good Father. Chris Tomlin and Pat Barrett. 2016. Thomas Nelson. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
  2. Dog Loves Books. Louise Yates. 2010. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Dog Loves Drawing. Louise Yates. 2012. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. What is a Child? Beatrice Alemagna. 2016. Tate. 36 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. A Child of Books. Oliver Jeffers. 2016. Candlewick Press. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. Fascinating: The Life of Leonard Nimoy. Richard Michelson. Illustrated by Edel Rodriguez. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  7. Swallow the Leader. Danna Smith. Illustrated by Kevin Sherry. 2016. HMH. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  8. Dog Loves Counting. Louise Yates. 2013. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Early readers and early chapter books:
  1. Wagon Wheels. Barbara Brenner. Illustrated by Don Bolognese. 1978. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. The Long Way Westward. Joan Sandin. 1989. 64 pages. [Source: Bought]
Contemporary (general, realistic) fiction, all ages:
  1. Applesauce Weather. Helen Frost. Illustrated by Amy June Bates. 2016. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. The Best (Worst) School Year Ever. Barbara Robinson. 1994. 117 pages. [Source: Bought]
Speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, etc.) all ages:
  1. Snow White. Matt Phelan. 2016. Candlewick. 216 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians. Brandon Sanderson. 2007. Scholastic. 308 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones. Brandon Sanderson. 2008. Scholastic. 322 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia. Brandon Sanderson. 2009. Scholastic. 299 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens. Brandon Sanderson. 2010. Scholastic. 294 pages. [Source: Library] 
  6. The Scourge. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2016. Scholastic. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Hansel and Gretel. Neil Gaiman. Illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti. 2014. Toon. 54 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  8. The Borrowers. Mary Norton. Illustrated by Beth and Joe Krush. 1952/2006. HMH. 192 pages. [Source: Library] 
  9. The Stars Never Rise. Rachel Vincent. 2015. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  10. The Flame Never Dies. Rachel Vincent. 2016. 343 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  11. The Heart of Betrayal (Remnant Chronicles #2) Mary E. Pearson. 2015. Henry Holt. 470 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. The Beauty of Darkness (Remnant Chronicles #3) Mary E. Pearson. 2016. Henry Holt. 679 pages. [Source: Library] 
  13. The Ask and the Answer. Patrick Ness. 2009. 536 pages. [Source: Library]

Historical fiction, all ages:
  1. Wolf Hollow. Lauren Wolk. 2016. 304 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd. (Flavia de Luce #8) 2016. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Emily's Runaway Imagination. Beverly Cleary. 1961. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]
Mysteries, all ages:
  1. Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd. (Flavia de Luce #8) 2016. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. Wolf Hollow. Lauren Wolk. 2016. 304 pages. [Source: Library]
Classics, all ages:
  1. The Borrowers. Mary Norton. Illustrated by Beth and Joe Krush. 1952/2006. HMH. 192 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Emily's Runaway Imagination. Beverly Cleary. 1961. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]
Nonfiction, all ages: 
  1. B is for Big Ben. Pamela Duncan Edwards. 2016. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Fascinating: The Life of Leonard Nimoy. Richard Michelson. Illustrated by Edel Rodriguez. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie. 2016. 130 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Winning Balance. Shawn Johnson and Nancy French. 2012. Tyndale. 256 pages. [Source: Library] 
  5. The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones. Rich Kienzle. 2016. 288 pages. [Source: Library]
Christian fiction:
  1. Good Good Father. Chris Tomlin and Pat Barrett. 2016. Thomas Nelson. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. The Revolt. Douglas Bond. 2016. P&R. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Crossroads in Galilee. Elizabeth Raum. 2016. BJU Press. [Source: Review copy]
Christian nonfiction:
  1. Unashamed: Healing Our Brokenness and Finding Freedom from Shame. Heather Davis Nelson. 2016. Crossway. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. Miracle Man. John Hendrix. 2016. Harry N. Abrams. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Overcoming Sin and Temptation. John Owen. Edited by Justin Taylor and Kelly M. Kapic. 2006/2015. Crossway. 462 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. Don't Follow Your Heart. Jon Bloom. 2015. Desiring God. 196 pages. [Source: Downloaded for Free]
  5. 52 Little Lessons from Les Miserables. Bob Welch. 2014. Thomas Nelson. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. Song of Songs. Ian M. Duguid. 2016. P&R. 216 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Winning Balance. Shawn Johnson and Nancy French. 2012. Tyndale. 256 pages. [Source: Library]
  8. What Grieving People Wish You Knew About What Really Helps (And What Really Hurts). Nancy Guthrie. 2016. Crossway. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  9. Voice of a Prophet. A.W. Tozer. 2014. Regal. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]
  10. Unshakable. K. Scott Oliphint and Rod Mays. 2016. P&R. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  11. The Lion First Book of Bible Stories. Lois Rock. Illustrated by Barbara Vagnozzi. 2012. Lion Hudson. 96 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Ask and the Answer

The Ask and the Answer. Patrick Ness. 2009. 536 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Your noise reveals you, Todd Hewitt.

Premise/plot: The Ask and the Answer is the sequel to the Knife of Never Letting Go. To refresh your memory, these are the first two books in the science fiction Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness. In the first book, readers met Todd and Viola. Todd is the conflicted hero who can't decide if he's willing to kill in order to "become a man." Viola is the newly arrived colonist whose parents died in the crashing of the scout ship. She puzzles Todd because she does NOT have noise. All the men, all the animals have noise. Women are mysteriously noise-free. Their thoughts cannot be heard by others. (Women can and do read the thoughts of men. And MEN hate this so very much). The Knife of Never Letting Go ended in a horrible place. Our two had spent over four hundred pages racing to reach a town called Haven only to arrive and....

Viola spends this book worried about Todd--they are separated for most of the book--and worried about what will happen next. Will the women (led by Mistress Coyle) war with the President's army? The women are THE ANSWER. The army (mainly if not exclusively men) are THE ASK. Both seemed determined to defeat the other no matter the cost. Both seem short-sighted and not really thinking about what is best for the planet, best for humanity. Mayor Prentiss and Mistress Coyle seem to be two peas in a pod--stubborn, selfish, dishonest.

Todd spends this book worried about Viola--as I said, they are separated for most of the book. He will do his duty and do whatever the Mayor (the PRESIDENT) says if he promises to keep Viola safe and allow them to see each other and be together again. He'll bide his time following orders--always kept close by the Mayor's son, Davy--until an opportunity comes along. Todd doesn't like being in the army. He doesn't like working with the slaves--the SPACKLE. He doesn't like banding the slaves or the women. But unlike the women of The Answer he doesn't physically rebel and become violent. He's still conflicted.

Mainly the book is about the skirmishes between The ASK and THE ANSWER...and the lies and broken promises of Mistress Coyle and President Prentiss. Todd and Viola are sad, lonely, angry, confused. More than anything they want to be TOGETHER and live in a peaceful community. This seems impossible.

My thoughts: I really LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one the first time I read it. I can't say the same the second time I read it. Perhaps because you can only be surprised by the story and characters once. One thing that really surprised me the first time was the character arc of Davy Prentiss. The ending of this one is SOMETHING especially the first time I read it.

I would still recommend this series with a few reservations. First, I think you have to read all three books in the proper order, and, close together at that. I think the books will have the biggest impact on readers if they're read back to back. Second, I think that the series isn't for all readers. You have to be fine with a moderate amount of profanity and really enjoy science fiction set on another planet. If you don't enjoy science fiction, then this series probably won't seem all that good.
"If you ever see a war," she says, not looking up from her clipboard, "you'll learn that war only destroys. No one escapes from a war. No one. Not even the survivors. You accept things that would appall you at any other time because life has temporarily lost all meaning." "War makes monsters of men," I say, quoting Ben from that night in the weird place where New World buried its dead. "And women," Mistress Coyle says. (102)
Everyone here is someone's daughter," she says quietly. "Every soldier out there is someone's son. The only crime, the only crime is to take a life. There is nothing else." "And that is why you don't fight," I say. She turns to me sharply. "To live is to fight," she snaps. "To preserve life is to fight everything that man stands for." (215)
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Long Way Westward

The Long Way Westward. Joan Sandin. 1989. 64 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: "Look, Carl Erik," said Jonas, "the streets of America are not paved with gold."

Premise/plot: The Long Way Westward follows a Swedish immigrant family as they travel across parts of the United States to reach their new home in Minnesota. Their travel involves a lot of TRAINS. The immigrant experience of the late nineteenth century is captured quite well in this early chapter book.

My thoughts: It is so nice to have stumbled across historical fiction for the youngest of readers. Historical fiction was probably my first true genre to LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. And I think I would have really enjoyed this one if I'd read it as a kid. As an adult, I can still appreciate it and recommend it to teachers, parents, and grandparents to share with young readers in their lives.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Worst Best School Year Ever

The Best (Worst) School Year Ever. Barbara Robinson. 1994. 117 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Unless you're somebody like Huckleberry Finn, the first day of school isn't too bad.

Premise/plot: This book is a sequel to the Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Both books are narrated by a girl named Beth who bear witness to the awfulness of the Herdman family. The book loosely takes place between the first and last days of school. The chapters are more episodic than linked to one another. All focus in on the Herdman family. Some chapters are better than others. I wouldn't say that any were wonderful.

My thoughts: I really LOVE, LOVE, LOVE The Best Christmas Pageant ever. And I think the reason why was that it had a point--a redemptive point. The Herdmans surprised everyone with their humanness, and, they weren't just the town joke when all was said and done. That isn't the case with The Worst Best School Year Ever. While there was one touching moment when Beth, the narrator, noticed Imogene at her best, that alone wasn't enough to make up for all the "let's laugh at the Herdmans." The scene I did like was when Beth noticed the initials on the blanket "returned" to baby Howard. I.H. When Howard lost his blanket--he was the bald baby whose head the Herdmans tattooed with waterproof markers--Imogene gave him her old blanket and pretended it was his that she had found. Only Beth suspected the truth. The first book seemed to end with a fuzzy removal of the "us" and "them" distinction. Not so with this one. And that is disappointing.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Grand Tour

The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones. Rich Kienzle. 2016. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Would he or wouldn't he show up?

Premise/plot: The Grand Tour is a biography of George Jones that seeks to balance a focus on his life and on his music. The author takes on the role of music critic and biographer. In the prologue he explains his approach, "Jones's life and music are inseparable. The music often triumphed even during his worst personal moments. His evolution from twangy imitator to distinctive new voice, from influential vocalist to master of his craft, is as important as his personal failings. Exploring that musical side--how he found songs and recorded them; the perspectives of the public, those involved in creating his records, and Jones himself--is pivotal to understanding the story. I've attempted to take the long view, examining not only his life and the events that shaped him from start to present, but simultaneously exploring his immense musical legacy, all in a clear chronological context." (13)

My thoughts: I started listening to George Jones' music this summer. And what I loved, I really, really LOVED. So I was curious to pick this new biography up at the library. I picked it up as a new fan and not an expert, so perhaps keep that in mind. But I enjoyed this biography very much. I think I might have appreciated aspects of it even more if I was familiar with more of his albums, more of his songs.

The prologue of this one had me hooked. Here is how the author describes Jones' voice: "The voice was raw nerve put to music...Yet above all that was his consummate ability to explore pain, sorrow, heartbreak, and emotional desolation." (9)

It was an often absorbing read full of highs and lows. I would definitely recommend it.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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